Monday, August 9, 2010

Vegetarian Cooking with Chef Brooke

Tonight was my first cooking class at Chef Brooke's Natural Cafe.

Brooke's has become one of my favorite weekend haunts. Chef Brooke serves the best vegetarian food I've ever had! Every time I eat there, I wind up saying that if I could eat like that everyday, I would have no trouble being vegetarian for the rest of my life!

Brooke has a display case of the daily dessert pastries. Brownies, muffins, cupcakes, cookies. Some are gluten-free, all are natural.

Before I left tonight I bought a Mexican "Hot Chocolate" muffin and a Strawberry-Mango muffin. Both were great! I see now that "hot chocolate" meant that it was spicy hot and chocolatety!

Each day the cafe posts their specials for the day...

The cafe is good-sized, and is really looking nice! Every time I stop in there they've made improvements to the place.

The restaurant even includes a small market area in the back, selling grains and nuts, sauces, flours and more...

The class was larger than I expected, with probably about 16-18 attendees.

Chef Brooke prepared 6 dishes for us while she explained the ingredients in each dish, why they were used, variations that could be done on each recipe, and introduced us to new natural and organic ingredients like Umeboshi vinegar (which she uses in nearly everything), Tinkyada Rice Pasta, Agave nectar and Tamari soy sauce. Do you know the difference between tamari and traditional soy sauce bought at the grocery store? Soy sauce from the grocery store is chemically fermented, which is why it's full of MSG and other chemicals that people have reactions to, while tamari is naturally fermented using "time".

One of the dishes that Chef Brooke was making for us was barbecued tofu. She explained that she first prepares her tofu with a garlic-tamari sauce, and then finishes it with whatever sauce she desires. She mentioned that when she is doing an asian dish, she will simply do the garlic-tamari sauce. One of the other class attendees asked if we could get a sample of the tofu with the garlic-tamari only, and then another with the BBQ sauce, and Chef Brooke thought that this was a great idea. So we each got to try a cube of tamari and garlic tofu...

I wasn't too sure about this, as I am definitely NOT a fan of tofu. However let me just say YUM! This was awesome! I could definitely make a meal of this tofu!

So in about an hour's time Chef Brook made a Sweet-Sour Cabbage...

...Barbecued Tofu...

...SW Style Quinoa... well as Garlic Lovers Pasta, Split Pea Soup and Carrot Slaw.

Each of us got a plate of food to sample...

The SW Style Quinoa was good. It wasn't my favorite dish, but it had nice fresh, crisp flavors. Quinoa is such a versatile grain, and Brooke taught us that it is gluten-free and easy to digest.

The Sweet and Sour Cabbage was my least favorite of the dishes. It was good, but I'm not big on sweet-sour, unless it's Sweet and Sour Chinese, which is probably full of chemicals!

The Split Pea Soup was good. What was really interesting about it was that only the split peas were cooked. The other vegetables (which included sweet potatoes) were tossed into the still hot soup and allowed to just sit in it. Oh yeah. The sweet potatoes were actually cooked ahead of time. Chef Brooke said that she just put the chopped sweet potatoes into a covered dish, and stuck it in the oven to steam.

The Carrot Slaw was almost sweet enough to serve as a dessert.

The Garlic Lover's Pasta was packed full of garlic. Wow! For 2 lbs of pasta, I think she probably included about 1/4 cup of garlic or more. This was full of flavor! And that creaminess is created by Vegannaise. There is no dairy in this pasta!

My favorite dish was the barbecued tofu! Wow! It already was full of flavor with just the tamari-garlic sauce. Then she added a homemade BBQ sauce to that. So good! And I was surprised at how firm the tofu was. It was practically crispy. This will be the first dish that I try to make myself.
So that was my first cooking class with Chef Brooke. Now I am considering attending her cooking class at the end of the month. That one will be raw food.


Everyday Mom Ideas said...

Tofu make me nervous! It just looks foul, but Ill try just about anything once.